Tag Archives: Pain

My Faith is Fleeting

My faith is fleeting, and my heart feels weak…

The struggles a Disciple can face go beyond the questions of society, they go beyond the challenges that arise in the adherence to the Word of God, stretching beyond temptation and sin. They can reach beyond to the darker places of the soul where fear, and worry, hurt and sorrow dwell in the shadows of who we are. They can reach beyond to touch us so that in those deeper moments we look and we see a poor reflection of ourselves, until we look through the mirror darkly amidst the imperfections that dwell within us. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

In those times, it just seems as if faith isn’t enough for us, or if it might once have been it isn’t now as it quickly flees from us in  those struggles we face.

Last week we talked about the fact that it isn’t wrong for a Christian to feel depressed despite the gifts that the Lord has given. Whatever others may say, there are going to be moments in our life when we just can’t seem to make a joyful noise, being glad even as we know that we live in the day that the Lord has made. Yet what about those times when it’s not others who say our faith isn’t enough because we have slipped to the depth of those pits of depression? What about those times when we look at ourselves and we hear the whispering voice in the back of our mind telling us that it just isn’t enough?

Regardless of what anyone else might say or do, this is the hardest to deal with. With others we can, if we find the strength, dismiss it, knowing they don’t know what it is we are going through or even that they don’t know what they are talking about. Yet when the voice comes from ourselves, it’s harder because it is coming from a place where we know we are lacking, from someone who knows us so deeply.

During these times what we need to remember is that these thoughts, they come from a place of darkness in us, not a place of strength. In Daniel’s song of praise to the Lord, “He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.” (Daniel 2:22) Here we are reminded by the words of the Prophet that though darkness may threaten to envelop us, God remains in the light and He shines that light to reveal knowledge, hope and wisdom even in our deepest challenges, when depression threatens to swallow us whole.

Even if it doesn’t feel like it, faith, your faith is enough and it doesn’t run in the face of challenge. Perhaps it may seem like it, but that is the deception of the Great Deceiver himself, who seeks to outwit us and cause our fall (2 Corinthians 2:11) just as he had so many generations before when he moved to rob us of Paradise. Yes, he comes like a roaring lion seeking to devour us (Romans 5:8), but he also comes as a whispering voice in our struggles and our depression, telling us the most evil thoughts, playing off the weakness and the self-doubt that comes from it. He does it because, where perhaps playing off of the vanity and the arrogance of some may work, in these times moving amidst the pain and the sorrow, pushing a little more, knowing how close one is to the edge, is all that he needs to ensure that they plunge to the depth of their despair, wondering why and how God could forsake them when they needed Him, if He was even there to begin with to hear their prayers.

Consider the argument, for a moment, of Satan before the throne of the Lord, looking upon His servant Job. Though his schemes did not work on the Man of Uz, perhaps a great deal of that came from the fact that he was only a spectator to Job’s  suffering, believing that as all of Job’s comfort, security and hope were taken from him,  the seeds of doubt would plant themselves. He has since mastered his craft and practiced for countless millennia and generations upon humanity, learning that the seed needed to be planted for it to take root. This is the game he now plays with God’s disciples as he weaves his dark cloak around them.

God does not abandon us, nor does He fail us or forsake us in our hour of need. (Joshua 1:5) For as distant as He may seem, He is always there on the other side of the veil that has been placed over our eyes, even as it seems to cover our sight to leave us wondering where He is. In those moments, though it feels as if our faith is weak, it takes greater strength than most know to believe that He is there, not only being certain of the things we do not see but hope on (Hebrews 11:1) but relying on it with every portion of our soul, finding the test to our spirit is nothing more than a challenge to the grace that has captured our heart.

In these moments, faith, dear brothers and sisters, is not gone, it has not fled from you. Yes, you are weary from your challenge, and your adversity, but your strength remains. The deceptions that can be woven around you in your moments of weakness are nothing more than just that. Like any good deception they perhaps feel so real, so palpable. Still they are there for no other purpose but to rob you of the peace and the hope you have. Ultimately what you need to remember is you are the one God choose through the power of His Spirit to bestow the gifts of His grace upon, the one He has showered the love that comes from His faith upon. That does not just slip away during the hardships you face. It is a living, breathing part of you. You just need to hold those promises a little tighter, seeking Him and those He has sent into your life to help you, and you will see the light that He has promised to you cutting through the darkness.

Your faith is never fleeting, however weak your heart may feel, dear Disciple. Be strong in the power of the Lord, and if you can’t find that strength, then let Him show it to you through the love and the compassion of His heart and your brethren as it reminds you how precious you are to Him.

Let the Shame of it Go.

It’s hard when the faithful Disciple, in living their life, finds their mind slipping and their heart sinking deeper within them. They want to see the light that surrounds them, but in that moment they can’t help but see the darkness that fogs their eyes as they feel a coldness inside of them brought by this emptiness. It’s an emptiness that should be filled with faith and hope, the faith and the hope that have always guided you, that you’ve always known was enough, but that seems removed from your life right now.

There’s a myth that surrounds Christianity, and the Christian that is sometimes touted out who says that they cannot be depressed. After all, “This is the day that the Lord has made,” aren’t we meant to “rejoice and be glad in it”? (Psalm 118:24) Aren’t we supposed to “Shout for joy to the Lord” while we “burst into jubilant song with music”? (Psalm 98:4) There are times when we can be made to feel as if, in the depth of despair, amidst the darkness that can surround us, it is even worse because there is something even more shameful in the way that we feel, as if we are not showing the proper gratitude to God for all the good gifts and wondrous blessings He has shown for our lives.

If this is the case, are we truly faithful? Are we truly the Disciples we were meant to be finding that depression creates within us a despair and a pain that doesn’t allow us to see the deeper wonders of God’s miracles that should create a joyful heart within us?

It has always been our perceptions of God’s love and the way that we perceive His word that creates more questions, that create more hardship than the actual fact that lies within the meaning and the purpose that He has intended for us. Whatever myths we attach to it, the truth is something vastly different in the confidence we should have in the faith He has blessed us with as that gift of His grace.

Considering the one we are meant to set our sights on, “the author and the finisher of our faith”, (Hebrews 12:2) there are few who understand the temptations that surround depression quite like our blessed Savior. Facing all that we face, seeing the world through the eyes of our hardships, there were times when even Christ Himself was threatened to be swallowed whole by it. Even as He placed his trust in God, His faith in the love and the design, the grandness of the plan of His Heavenly Father, whom He knew loved Him so dearly, it was not hard to see that pain and that sense of despair on His face, to hear it in His voice as He prayed, knowing His course, as He fell to the ground, and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

Though His faith never wavered in the face of it, nor did He ever question the nature of God’s plan, in those moments, when He felt the finality of it all, of the design He knew He was sent to fulfill, like any of us, He Himself felt a darkness that surrounded Him that did not let Him make that “joyful noise” or “burst into that jubilant song.”

But then there is a reason why Jesus tells us to “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) He wants us to know that, even as we feel tired and weighed down by this world, even as we feel the struggles of this world push on us, there is nothing shameful in it. Saints through the course of time, men and women whose faith would be renowned for its strength would face the same even as they trusted in God, finding that the hardships of this world would find the weaker places in them and try to break them. There was and there is nothing shameful, nothing wrong in that. The true test of faith is not in never feeling depression or darkness surrounding us, it lies in how we seek God and those who He has sent to help us through that journey into the foggy mists of the hazier places in our minds.

More than just singing a joyful song or praising God for all of His blessings, being a Disciple of Christ is about being honest with Him. You cannot be faithful in your steadfast devotion to your faith if, like Adam and Eve in the Garden, you hide from Him when you feel as if something is shameful and wrong. You cannot seek His plan and design, you cannot find the peace of His love if you pretend to Him, refusing to bear your heart and your soul to Him.

There is nothing wrong or bad or shameful about what you feel or face, the only wrong that can occur is when you refuse to let the Lord, your Heavenly Father who loves and care for you, heal you, guiding you to the people and places you need where hope and love and help lie waiting for you.

The joy of pain

James 1:2-4  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

 Sometimes the best thing that can happen to you is a tragedy.  Sometimes the thing that puts you on the path you need to be on is pain and suffering.  No one wants to face those things, but in reality they point us to God.

When things are going perfectly, we often have a tendency to overlook God’s role in the blessings we’re enjoying.  Maybe every now and then we give thanks, but when it’s smooth sailing there is little time really spent calling out to God.

But when the going gets tough, it’s time to hit our knees.  We cry out to God and beg Him to get us through this painful circumstance.  We talk to Him more, trust in Him more, exercise greater faith, and grow more spiritually than we ever do during the good times.

It’s often said that if there’s no pain there’s no gain, but we seem to think this doesn’t apply to spiritual matters.  The truth is, pain produces growth spiritually, and it perfects us a little bit at a time as we grow closer to God in the midst of our trials.  So next time you’re going through a rough patch, give thanks to God for the opportunity to become more like His Son.  Rely on Him to get you through to the end.

In Opposition

It’s hard at times, isn’t it? For as hard as one may try to live that good life, that example that is given in love and honesty, strengthened by the teachings of Christ, the truth is that it almost always seems as if someone somewhere is going to take exception to you. It’s one of those frustrating truths that sort of always seems to come out.

But then, can one really be that terribly surprised? If the perfect Son of God found Himself amidst the challenges of those who opposed Him (Matthew 22:15-22) despite all that He was and that He meant for humanity, suffering even unto His death, (Mark 14:53-65, Mark 15:21-41) then, in our own imperfect nature, what chance does any one of us have? If Christ Himself couldn’t please all of the people all of the time despite the fact that He had come to save all humanity, than how can we expect ourselves, in trying to live our lives, to find that we have any more of a chance?

No, the real challenge of Christian living, of being a disciple of Christ is not a question of if we meet opposition in our lives, it is not a question of whether or not we are challenged by those around us, if we are liked by those around us. The real question is a matter of how we meet them. It is a matter of how  we respond when it seems as if we are overwhelmed by the burdens of dealing with those who do not like us, who, for one reason or another, have taken exception to us.

The truth is that sometimes it is harder than others, sometimes it hits us harder than others. Sometimes it seems to pile up on us until finally we wonder exactly what is going on as we feel the pressure and the weight of it all. We don’t want it to affect us but, in a way, we just can’t seem to help it. After all, we are made to be social creatures, to exist with  companionship, whether it is marriage or relationships, friendships or acquaintanceships, with others. (Genesis 2:18)

God knows that we are going to have confrontations. Then again, it doesn’t take the Almighty, Omnipotent and Omnipresent sight of God to understand and to see that. Yet He also knows that, for as much as they may affect us, they aren’t what defines us. What defines us, what defines the love, the hope and the beauty of our souls is the way that we react to it. It is why, each and every step of the way, He seeks to show us the path towards righteousness, telling us that, though the race may be long, we need to run it with endurance, living with patience and love even towards those who have shown nothing but malice and hatred towards us. (Matthew 5:43-48)

You see, life is hardly going to be fair and there are times when it isn’t going to be right. It is during these moments when the only thing that can be done is that we live according to the people that God intended us to be, realizing that even though we are in this world we are not of it. (Romans 12:2) In other words, as the great Reformer Martin Luther once put it, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can stop them from making a nest in your hair.” For as negative as it may become, only you can let it have any power over you. Only you and you alone can let it wear you down or affect your mindset.

That doesn’t mean that you should not respond when you are attacked, or when the opposition you face comes to meet you head on. What it does mean is that the Disciple need to remember that whatever worries or stress it may cause, God is the one looking out for you, He is protecting you from trouble that it may be bring and, as such, it makes no sense in giving yourself grief over it. (Matthew 6:25-34) In the end it is going to be as it needs to be, for better or for worse, even as the Disciple comes to understand that the worst will always end up giving way to the better if they trust in the wondrous and divine nature of God’s grander design.

What opposition do you face in your daily walk? What challenges from others burden you? Lay them at Christ’s feet, go to God’s throne and kneel, praying that the hearts of those who may dislike you are changed, but also praying that your own heart is changed so that you are able to look past to the brighter future God has in store for you, realizing that sometimes life is just full of opposition but that is life and other people’s problem, not yours, even when they try to make it yours.

It is then that the peace that you seek will not be far behind as you focus yourself on the things you can change and trouble yourself not with those that you cannot.